By JOSH THALL
Capital News Service
LANSING — Educators are working to make sure students are prepared to take the SAT when it becomes the new state test for high school juniors, and that colleges are ready to evaluate the results.
Early this year, Michigan awarded the College Board a $17.1 million three-year contract for the SAT to be the state-administered college entrance exam starting in 2016, replacing the long-used ACT. The move was in-part a money saving decision, as the bid from the College Board was over $15 million less than the bid from the ACT over the three year period.
At the same time the state is making the switch, the SAT is being reinvented to align better with the national Common Core standards Michigan has adopted for its education system.
College admissions officials said the switch will not dramatically affect they way applicants are judged; many schools have accepted both ACT and SAT scores for years and rely on other measures as well.
“Both test scores are good indicators of college success,” said John Hoffschneider, a senior admissions counselor for Michigan State University. “We look at recalculated high school grade point average, curriculum selection, grade trends, extracurricular activities, and also the personal statement that our application requires — so it is only one facet.”
Christopher Tremblay, the associate provost for enrollment management at Western Michigan University said one of the biggest adjustments will be looking at how the new SAT exam compares to the old one, and creating a new system for comparing ACT and SAT scores.
Michigan colleges have been using a table for converting SAT scores into comparable ACT scores that will have to be adjusted. The table was created by both the ACT and the College Board.
“I think for them to be administering a brand new test at the time we are making a switch makes it a little challenging,” Tremblay said. “We will be anxious to get that new table to see how an SAT score calibrates to an ACT score.”
The switch will makes things more difficult for students, Tremblay said.
“It kind of disrupts everything that is going on for students because high schools have been doing a lot for ACT prep and so now they have to switch to SAT prep,” Tremblay said. “So from the perspective of the student, I just wonder if that was the best decision that was made.”
School district administrators had similar concerns, since nobody knows what the revised SAT exam will look like. According to the ACT website, the ACT has historically been an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school, while the SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.
“I think a key emphasis heading into next year will be to gain as much understanding as we can about what the SAT will look like, and what it will cover,” said Kyle Mayer, an assistant superintendent for instructional services for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District in Holland. “It is an all new SAT so we can’t look at old versions of the test and know what this one is going to be like.”
Mayer said the SAT promised as part of the bidding process that there would be a high level of professional development for state educators to help everyone understand the new exam, in order to best prepare students for the test.
Stan Masters, the coordinator of instructional data service for the Lenawee Intermediate School District in Adrian, said officials aren’t sure what impacts the switch could have on the district’s curriculum yet, but that there will be challenges.
“I think one of the challenges is that we are used to the ACT and we have made large decisions based upon getting ready for that particular college entrance exam,” Masters said. “It is something new, so you have to shift.”
Bill DiSessa of the Office of Public & Governmental Affairs for the Department of Education said he expects test-prep organizations from around Michigan to offer classes and testing to help students prepare for the new SAT.
DiSessa also said the department is creating a committee that will include local and regional community college members to help deal with issues that may arise during the transition process.
Tremblay said Western is doing something similar to ensure a smooth transition. The admissions department has invited their board representatives to campus to give them a presentation about the new SAT, and what it will measure.
High school juniors will still have the option to take the ACT if they choose, but as with the current system, to take the alternate exam they will have to pay a fee.
The current fee for students to take the SAT is $52.50. Once the SAT is the statewide exam, students and parents will have to pay $38 for the ACT exam without the writing portion, and $54.50 to take the it with the writing portion.
By JOSH THALL